Pios host North DeSoto in regional showdown

CROWLEY – On the horizon for Notre Dame is a potential rematch with Livonia, who knocked the Pios out of the state baseball playoffs in the quarterfinal round in 2011.

But before that can happen, there is one major obstacle standing in the way of the Pios and that potential quarterfinal showdown - North DeSoto .

The Pios will entertain the No. 11 seeded Griffins this evening at 6 o’clock in a Class 3A regional tilt at Miller Stadium.

“It looks like that’s where we’re probably headed,” said Notre Dame coach Timmy Robichaux of the possible rematch with Livonia. “But we’re not looking at that right now. We have one more game to win to get to that point and all of our focus is on North DeSoto .”

And most of that focus will be on North DeSoto senior hurler Jared West. The 6-foot-5 University of Houston signee’s fastball has been clocked in the mid to upper 80’s mostly, but he has touched 90 recently.

“Their No. 1 pitcher is a pretty good lefty,” said Robichaux. “Lefties typically cause trouble for everybody.

“He’s more 85-86 consistently. And I don’t think he’s supposed to have much of an off-speed pitch so that’s a good thing. But our approach is that to hit lefties, you have to hit the ball the other way because the fastball is going to tail away from you.

“So we are probably going to have to bunt more, hit-and-run more and do some of those things.”

The Pios will counter on the mound with senior Nick Gossen. Gossen has compiled a record of 6-2 and has an earned run average of 1.39 with 66 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. He also has two saves to his credit.

“He’s our best strike thrower,” said Robichaux. “We like that he’s typically always around the plate. They’ll probably put the ball in play, but we’ll just have to play defense.

“We just think he gives us the best chance because he throws strikes.”

Gossen will be put to the test, as will the Pios’ defense, against a North DeSoto team that is averaging 8.23 runs per game. In their 30 outings this season, the Griffins have plated 247 runs while their defense has allowed just 119 or 3.96 runs per game.

“They have some good hitters in their lineup so it will be a good test for us,” said Robichaux. “But from this point on, pretty much anybody you are going to face now, there is a reason they are advancing in the playoffs.

“They’re going to have good pitching and they’re going to have good hitters. Our approach, no matter who it is we’re playing, is to just throw strikes, play defense and be able to put the ball in play and keep our strikeouts down.”

Putting the ball in play hasn’t been a problem for the Pios this year. Finding the holes has been.

The Pios struggled through a rugged early-season schedule and have scored just 151 runs on the year. They have given up 156.

“Early in the season, we weren’t playing defense as well and we were giving up some runs,” said Robichaux. “And we were playing some tougher opponents, some good offenses.”

However, Robichaux’s strength of schedule has paid off and the Pios are hitting their stride at just the right time. They have been especially effective recently, winning their last five games and outscoring their opponents 54-15 in the process.

Senior Connor Goss leads the offensive charge with a .448 batting average. The Pios’ 3-hole hitter has 14 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 39 RBI on the season.

Leadoff hitter Gavin Bourgeois follows Goss with an average of .342 with 18 RBI and cleanup hitter Matt Venable is hitting .311 with 19 RBI.

The bottom of the order has gotten a lift from Hogan Guidry and Clint Faul, who are hitting .282 and .302, respectively.

“Now, we are hitting the ball better from one through nine,” said Robichaux. “We’re starting to get production from people at down at the bottom of the lineup and I don’t think we’re as top-heavy as we were when we first got under way.”

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